Jodi DeVito was selected as one of The Hedge Fund Journal's 50 Leading Women In Hedge Funds 2013.
When Jodi DeVito was studying at the University at Albany (SUNY), in upstate New York, she initially had no idea what she wanted to major in. Her experiences there gave her a broad grounding in finance that, she says, “introduced me to all of the different types of financial products, which in turn, got me interested in finance”.
Her Business Administration, Finance and Marketing studies were most valuable in “preparing me for team work,” she says, because “Wall Street is all about teams, not individuals”. Role-playing exercises at college allowed DeVito and her peers to understand job functions, and partner on assignments like “figuring out different stock picks and working on case studies”.
After graduating in 1991, DeVito was recruited directly into Morgan Stanley’s (MS) one-year training programme, which “gave me exposure to the operations at a brokerage firm and helped me understand various financial products,” she recalls. After the training programme, Jodi worked in MS’s prime brokerage business which “placed significance on team work and unity”. At the time, the MS PB offering was a more mature product than at Credit Suisse and DeVito leveraged her experience at MS to help Credit Suisse ramp up its own PB unit.
When DeVito arrived at Credit Suisse in 2002, they were building the Prime Services business and DeVito’s belief in the importance of team work, technology and high-touch client service helped Credit Suisse rise to a top-tier franchise. Last year’s Hedge Fund Intelligence survey ranked Credit Suisse number two globally according to primed assets of $200 billion.
“The strategy at Credit Suisse has not changed since I joined,” DeVito reiterates, with “the focus still on giving top service to our core 400 Prime accounts”. Prime Services does not try to be everything to everyone, she explains, but prefers to concentrate its efforts on these key customers. Its ambition is simply to remain a top-tier provider, and not to change its philosophy. To maintain this status, the bank will continue to partner with its key clients. This, however, does not mean that Credit Suisse wants to be clients’ one and only prime broker – far from it. Credit Suisse pioneered the concept of a multi-prime broker environment, “focusing on technologies that made it easier for clients to add a second or subsequent prime broker,” DeVito says, because “we also work in investors’ best interests”, noting that investors understand the need for diversity from both prime brokers and administrators.
DeVito recognises that diversifying counterparty exposures has become more important since the crisis. “Before 2008, many clients had only one or two prime brokers and often no custodians. Now, for example, they want custodians and tri-party agreements for security and diversification of assets,” she explains. Following the crisis, many clients “were worried about safety issues.” However, now she is reassured that “most clients seem comfortable”. Leverage has also changed. “Pre-2008, leverage was key and people wanted enhanced leverage,” she recalls.
Now, leverage has come down, migrating clients away from enhanced platforms onto portfolio margining. Leverage has picked up from the lows but is still nowhere near pre-crisis levels.
Technology is one differentiator that gives Credit Suisse clients ease of navigating the firm. Credit Suisse houses all of its financing products – fixed income, equity, swaps, futures, FX PB, and over the counter (OTC) – within Prime Services. This means that one single system can give clients a fully integrated overview of all their sources of financing. In contrast, some competitors silo some financing products outside their prime brokerage divisions.
Another distinguishing feature of the Prime Services platform at Credit Suisse is the Prime Consulting team, a group of experienced financial professionals dedicated to helping start-ups get their businesses up and running with all aspects of business models, ranging from selecting vendors and service providers to operational set-up. These helping hands do not stop after launch, as the Prime Consulting team often continues to partner with firms as they grow, advising them how they need to adapt their technology as assets grow from hundreds of millions to billions.
Reflecting on the rise of women in hedge funds since the 1990s, DeVito recalls, “When I started within prime brokerage I was one of very few women in the industry”. Now DeVito cannot hide her pride in the fact that about half of her salespeople are women. She observes, however, that among her clients, there are still fewer women in senior roles, although things are changing. A growing number of portfolio managers, CFOs and COOs are now women. She says, “It is really important that these women network,” and is always trying to create opportunities for this to happen through meetings and events.
Credit Suisse has a women’s networking group, of which DeVito has co-chaired one of the committees, and Credit Suisse’s activities in this area are not just internal: “the bank puts together events to help clients organise their own women's networking opportunities as well”.
In addition, DeVito has partaken in several Credit Suisse voluntary initiatives, including Habitat for Humanity projects, the Food Drive for New York, and other charitable events.
DeVito has had several mentors over the years, and was recently asked to step into mentor shoes herself. DeVito’s first boss from Morgan Stanley is still a mentor today, and other inspirational influences have come from outside the prime brokerage space. She still talks to her professors from Albany, who were especially excited that she was selected as one of The Hedge Fund Journal’s 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds this year. This honour has now led to DeVito being asked to act as a mentor for women graduating from her alma mater.
In summary DeVito says, “It's all about team work. Credit Suisse has a great team that has helped me to get where I am today. Partnering internally and externally is a focus for Credit Suisse.”
• Holds a B.S. in Business Administration from SUNY Albany, concentrating in Finance and Marketing.
• Managing Director of Credit Suisse in the Investment Banking division, based in New York.
• Co-Head of Prime Services Coverage Americas, responsible for sales of prime brokerage and prime finance product, including swaps, ETFs and futures.
• Advisor to the AWN Client Committee.
• Member of the Americas Equities Operating Committee
• Sponsor of the Equities Associate Development Program
• Began her career at Morgan Stanley in 1991, where she was selected into the Management Operations Training Program before joining prime brokerage.
• Vice president in the prime brokerage division at Morgan Stanley until 2002.
• Recently chosen to be a mentor at SUNY Albany.